Bill Coker gave this prayer several years ago at World Gospel Church, yet the points and subjects sound like today. This is part of a collection of pastoral prayers which will be Bill’s second book to be published in 2021.
Our heavenly Father, by Your great mercy You have bestowed on us every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. We praise You for Your faithfulness and the abundant gifts of love showered upon us. Truly our lines have fallen to us in pleasant places, because even our most difficult circumstances are pregnant with potential blessing. We know all of this is possible only because of Your love.
We are thankful for the opportunity many of us have enjoyed this past week, to be with family and friends to share our Thanksgiving celebration. We are grateful for this reminder of Your many blessings. For some of us, though, an empty chair has emphasized the absence of one whom we love; an empty dream has crushed our hopes; an empty expectation has frustrated our plans and brought disappointment. Our holiday has seemed hollow and our efforts at being thankful a bit feigned. We are grateful that we have a Savior who understands us, who feels our pain and knows our sorrow.
On this first Sunday of Advent, as we turn out thoughts toward Christmas, we ask for Your Holy Spirit to prepare us for celebration of the coming of Immanuel. Help us not lose sight of the spiritual significance of this season, even as we enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays. Bring to our minds again the promise of the coming Messiah whom the ancient prophets proclaimed. Remind us again that people heard, yet when the fullness of time came, they were not ready for the Christ.
Prepare our hearts, O God, for we want to make room for Jesus. We want to live in readiness for His Second Coming, even as we celebrate His first coming. As we marvel again that the Word became flesh, may we not forget (as preposterous as it may sound to the unbelieving heart) that Jesus is coming again, and every eye shall see Him and every tongue shall confess He is Lord.
We pray for our bloodied world, so torn by racial tensions and political conflicts. We hurt for the innocent victims caught in the crossfire, for those whose families have been racked by the pain of death, for those who seek to find hope in the shattered ruins of their country. We pray for the hardened hearts of those whose violent hatred disregard the sufferings of the innocent in order to inflict death and devastation.
As we celebrate the Advent season, keep reminding us of the people who live in the inner cities of our larger metropolises―for those who watch firsthand the disastrous consequences of drugs and crime as their neighborhoods and families are ravished. In our comfortable lives we cannot imagine the frustration of those who find themselves locked into the vicious cycle of poverty, lack of opportunity, and apathy. Forgive us for protecting ourselves by putting it out of our minds and by blaming society for the nightmare of children born into this hopelessness. Forgive us for doing nothing, even though we cannot honestly see how we could make any difference in this horrible mess. Forgive us for being inoculated even against caring.
Change us, Lord. Change our church by changing us. Change our community by changing our church. Change our city by pouring out the Holy Spirit upon us in such measure that our own sense of inadequacy is overcome and the power of Your Spirit in us shakes our world.
We love You, Lord; we lay our lives before You. Do in us all that needs to be done, so that You can do through us all that should be done. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.